Vail Daily columnist Allen Smith: An online history of the world
November 7, 2012
If you’ve ever run a marathon, then you probably know how the grueling 26.2 mile event originated.
According to myth, the race was originated by the Greek messenger Pheidippides. Dispatched from the front lines at the Battle of Marathon, Pheidippides ran non-stop to Athens, bursting into the assembly exclaiming, “Nenikekamen,” or “We have won,” before collapsing and dying.
Why didn’t he just send a tweet?
The answer, of course, is that while he could have faxed or emailed the message to Athens, Twitter wasn’t invented until hundreds of years later. If he had tweeted the message and skipped the run, chances are there wouldn’t have been a Boston Marathon, the running craze of the 1970s, running sneakers or those cute little shorts we enjoy seeing on each others’ heinies. Thousands of middle-aged, overweight couch potatoes would be even more middle-aged and overweight. There wouldn’t have been much demand for sports bras and heaven forbid, there probably wouldn’t be any Lycra.
History could have been completely rewritten if our current technology was around when Moses approached the pharaohs of Egypt prior to the great exodus. Instead of threatening Egypt with swarms of locusts, turning the Nile into blood or killing off families’ firstborn male children, he could have just shut down their Facebook accounts. The wailing would have echoed across the land.
Or he could have released a crippling virus into the pharaoh’s construction company’s mainframe computer that would have resulted in building a deadly desert collection of million dollar hotels, wedding chapels, gambling casinos, golf courses, circus acts, computer-operated water fountains, amusement parks, brothels, shops and tourist traps instead of the Great Sphinx of Giza.
The birth of Christ would have been completely rewritten as we know it. Joseph and Mary could have avoided spending the night in a dirty barn with stinky animals if they had just jumped on Priceline.com with an iPhone app and checked out last-minute hotel deals in Bethlehem. Chances are, Mary would have brought all her friends up to date with the following email:
“Well, Joseph and I finally got here late last night. OMG! It took forever, riding on the back of that stupid donkey. We were supposed to be staying in the Emperor’s Suite, but you know who screwed up our reservations. By the time we arrived, the only thing left was this dirty old barn behind the hotel. We were both so tired, we just said WTF and crashed in the hay.
“Then the argument. … I told Joseph that I was pregnant and he completely flew off the handle! I swore up and down that I didn’t know how it happened. I’ve never slept with anyone, not even him. I insisted that it was Immaculate Conception, but he wasn’t going for it. Not for one minute.
“He ended up stomping out and was gone for over two hours before he called me on his cell phone. He told me in order to cover the cost of feeding an extra mouth, he had to take a part-time job in the lumber department at Home Depot.
“The second day we were here, I gave birth to a 14 lb. baby boy. Holy #$%^. He barely fit in the manger. We’re calling him Jesus (pronounced HEY-SOOS).
“Later that evening, 3 wise men stopped by with frankincense, gold and myrrh. They got all bent out of shape when I told them that I had already received tons of frankincense and myrrh at my baby shower, but I’d go ahead and take the gold. They should have done a little research.
“I’ve been registered at the Crate N’ Barrel in downtown Nazareth for weeks. Well GF, that’s about it for now. We should be back in a couple of months after Joseph makes enough dough for the trip back. We’re hoping to upgrade to the back of a camel. – Mary”
Christopher Columbus could have benefited enormously from today’s technology. Anticipating the huge potential for capturing the spice trade of the East Indies, he set out in 1492 for Japan with financing from Queen Isabella from Spain.
He ended up wandering aimlessly all over the Western world – the Bahamas, the Greater and Lesser Antilles, the Caribbean, Central American and Venezuela. If he just had a GPS, Google Maps or Mapquest, he could have spared himself the embarrassment of not knowing where the @#$%^ he was and could have ultimately kept his job as the “Great Admiral of the Ocean.” Instead, he was unceremoniously driven out of town with the rest of his family.
Long before the popular television series, “Noah’s Ark,” God became so upset with humankind that he decided do away with the lot of them – everyone except Noah and his family. If there had been electricity and telecommunications at the time, things would have been much easier. God could have just shut down the entire power grid to the world and watched everyone duke it out without their iPads.
But there wasn’t, so he decided to do the only thing he could – flood the earth and start over.
If Noah had simple power tools and a laptop with computer assisted drawing, it would have taken him a fraction of the 120 years it took to build an ark 300 cubits long and to maintain an inventory of two of every species.
If he had access to the Internet, his boys could have completed an online degree in hotel management from the University of Phoenix while they bobbed along, waiting for the waters to recede, although it wouldn’t have mattered. By the time they touched down on dry land, there wasn’t anyone left to inhabit the earth, so reservations would have been down for a couple of hundred years.
It’s safe to say that if technology had appeared earlier in history, hundreds of events would have changed. The Declaration of Independence would have had its own website and blog, the Wright brothers might have been the first TSA agents to do cavity searches at Kitty Hawk, and there would have been no need for Gutenberg’s movable type printing press. The first Bible would have probably shown up as a Blackberry app.
Allen Smith, of Vail, is the author of “Watching Grandma Circle the Drain” and “Ski Instructors Confidential.” You can reach him at http://www.snowwriter.com.